The Cal Poly Pomona baseball team headed south on Friday to kick off the first California Collegiate Athletic Association series against the UC San Diego Tritons.
The Broncos dropped the first game of the four-game series by a score of 3-2, bringing their overall record to 2-3.
Senior pitcher Gavin Velasquez, who comes off a no-decision in the season opener on Feb.7, was given the ball to start the series. Velasquez threw 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs, four hits, three walks and striking out 11 batters.
Going into the seventh inning with a two-run lead, Velasquez found himself in some trouble after allowing a walk and giving up a single, which put runners on first and second base. Junior pitcher Connor Tousignant took over with one out in the inning.
Tousignant struck out the first batter he faced, making it two on with two out. Following the strikeout, Tousignant hit the next batter, making it bases loaded with two down.
Tousignant then walked junior first baseman Blake Baumgartner, bringing the score to 2-1. After allowing a base hit to center field, the Tritons took a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning.
The first game of the series would finish by a score of 3-2, with neither team scoring again after the seventh inning.
After dropping game one on Friday night, the Broncos hoped for better results in game two of the series on Saturday afternoon in San Diego.
The Broncos got on the board quickly in the first after senior first baseman Brennan McKenzie ripped a triple to center field, driving in senior second baseman Ryon Knowles.
“We’ve been competing at a very high level and in my opinion have been the better ball club these past two games minus the outcomes. Just a couple key moments that haven’t been swinging our way. But I’m happy to see the resilience of this team,” McKenzie said. “I’ve just been buying into the approach that coach Betten has been preaching to us these past couple of weeks and it paid off for me today.”
The team held onto a 1-0 lead over the Tritons up until the fourth inning when Tritons’ junior catcher Aaron Kim hit a three-run home run to take the lead. The Tritons would score once more in the inning to take a 4-1 lead going into the fifth.
In the top of the fifth, the Broncos scored two runs on junior right fielder Nick Peifer’s double to make the score 4-3.
After allowing one run, the Broncos found themselves in a bases loaded jam in the fifth inning, and called upon junior pitcher Steven Ordorica, who came in and struck out two batters to stop the bleeding.
“Steven is a big part of our pitching staff; he’s a great teammate and is a guy that’s going to do everything in his power to help us win a game,” Peifer said. “He has a very funky delivery that makes him very unique for us. He’s done a great job for us so far and I know he is going to continue to put us in positions to win games.”
Head coach Randy Betten had high praise for his pitcher. “He did that in junior college, so we knew what we were getting. He wasn’t going to be rattled by a situation or scared. He’s going to handle those stressful spots and he’s done that.
“He continues to give us those big innings and that’s when we’re going to look for him all year,” Betten said.
Going into the seventh inning, the Tritons expanded their lead to 6-3 after scoring runs in the fifth and seventh innings. But the Broncos’ bats came alive in the top of the eighth inning.
Junior center fielder Cesar Lopez got the Broncos going after hitting a double to left field with one out. McKenzie also ripped a double to the left-center gap and brought in Lopez.
With the Broncos now only chasing by two runs, senior left fielder Christian Moya singled with two outs in the inning to drive in McKenzie and shrink the Tritons’ lead to one.
Junior outfielder and designated hitter Dante Palacio hit the Broncos’ third double of the inning and drove in Moya from first to tie the game at 6-6.
The Tritons reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the eighth inning after scoring one run on junior outfielder Anthony Lucchetti’s single.
“We played really well as a team these last two games, just didn’t come out on top,” Peifer said. “We showed that we were able to stay in the game all nine innings tying it in the eighth and never stopped fighting no matter what the score was. We do have things we need to work and once we get everything going we will be just fine.”
The Broncos went down quietly in the top of the ninth inning and fell short in both away games in the series.
“All I really want them to do is continue to stay the course, believe in what we’re doing, understand this is a journey and just keep staying with it,” Betten said. “Just keep doing the same thing. The game right now is just not going our way, but I know and believe in doing things right daily; eventually the games will go our way.”
The Broncos headed home to Scolinos Field on Sunday for a double-header to close out the series with the Tritons.
The Broncos redeemed themselves in game one of the double header after defeating the Tritons 4-2.
Game two of the day was set to be only seven innings but after a tied score of 5-5, the two teams headed to extra innings. In the 11th, with the bases loaded, junior pinch hitter Derek Marshall Jr. was walked to bring in McKenzie, ending the game with a 6-5 victory.
The Broncos will be back at Scolinos Field Friday for game one of a four-game series against Cal State Los Angeles. First pitch will be thrown at 6 p.m.
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